23rd January 2018

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 roundup part 1 – automotive

As a Group immersed in vehicles and technology, we always eagerly anticipate the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which never ceases to amaze with its fascinating mix of concepts and launches. In part one of our whistle-stop overview of CES 2018, our focus is on all-things automotive.

With SUVs currently dominating markets worldwide and much emphasis being placed on the need to embrace alternative fuels, NEXO from Hyundai is of great interest. Having previously produced a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) version of the ix35 in limited numbers, the Korean firm has used its experience to create a thoroughly modern, technology-packed crossover that will go on sale in the States, Australia, the UK and other markets later this year. Hydrogen vehicles emit only water vapour and typically boast much longer ranges (circa 500+ miles) than electric vehicles along with rapid recharging in around 5-10 minutes, let down only by very scarce refuelling sites. Could hydrogen actually turn out to be the ideal fuel for fleets of the future?

We’re big fans of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and Nissan is aiming to connect such innovative safety features with the human body through its Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) technology. Early adopters will unfortunately have to wear what looks like a wired-up shower cap but the concept is worthwhile. Nissan’s device measures brainwave activity to predict when a driver is about to initiate an action so that it can imperceptibly speed up reaction times and also make sporty cornering more enjoyable. Computers augmenting human responses will certainly help protect at-work drivers when such technology is introduced on production cars.

Mercedes models perennially appear in top ten contract hire charts with the A-Class particularly proving popular. The new model arriving later this year will showcase the marques’ cutting-edge intuitive and intelligent multimedia user interface experience, dubbed MBUX. With a high-resolution widescreen touchscreen cockpit taking centre stage, ‘Mercedes me’ connectivity will deliver seamless updates while artificial intelligence will enable the system to individualise and adapt to suit each driver. Mercedes’ current COMAND infotainment controller will be replaced with a touchpad, while extra haptic buttons will feature on the steering wheel in an intuitive and holistic experience that aims to reduce driver distractions. MBUX’s mapping functionality will operate predictively and include augmented reality, while the LINGUATRONIC module enables ‘Hey, Mercedes…’ Siri-like voice control – and Mercedes’ new tech even integrates with smartwatches via the Android Wear 2.0 operating system.

Technology companies continue to effectively overshadow actual vehicle manufacturers at CES and this year it was impossible to miss the gargantuan ultra-HD screens set to dominate cars of the not-so-distant future’s ‘cockpits’ or indeed Alexa’s appearance in so many car and tech firms’ cockpit concepts. The most notable was Toyota, the world’s largest car-maker, which has opted to solely introduce Alexa integration at this stage, ominously omitting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support. To enable drivers of slightly older vehicles to take advantage of Alexa functionality, various companies have been launching aftermarket systems, and CES 2018 saw Garmin pitch its Speak Plus device, while much more affordable solutions such as the Roav Viva were also presented. Its name meaning Bytes on Wheels, the fully electric, level 3 autonomous Byton concept car unveiled at the show features an enormous touchscreen dashboard and its ex-Apple and BMW designers announced that they too have chosen to side with Alexa for voice control and personal assistance.

Byton’s concept car pointed to another niche of automotive technology that could become increasingly prevalent – facial recognition to unlock a vehicle and start its ignition. Such technology has already made its way into various handheld devices courtesy of Apple’s Face ID and Samsung’s iris reader, so it was only really a matter of time before automotive developers got in on the act. At the Gentex booth at CES 2018, in-vehicle biometrics was big news, with a driver’s eye set to be the key to unlocking a whole host of automotive functions and connected services. The firm’s tech is set to appear in more JLR models as time progresses and will often be incorporated along with Gentex’s full-display digital rear-view mirror, its bi-mode operation allowing it to flit between being a mirror and a screen.

Electric power inevitably dominated the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 and although Fisker’s new concept will be unaffordable for many drivers, the good news is that mainstream electric cars with genuinely useable ranges are edging towards reality. The fully electric version of Kia’s Niro was showcased and is set to provide a range of over 230 miles on paper which, even after a realistic downward adjustment based on environmental factors, driving style and the car’s systems feeding off the battery, still heralds a decent forward stride.

Sharing is something private and commercial motorists will have to get used to at some point in the nearish future and we finish our CES 2018 automotive tour with Toyota’s e-Palette. Essentially, it’s a van-shaped vehicle that will come in three sizes and remarkably features a screen-like body that can either be transparent to create an airy and very visible public space or can display any desired image. To suit the user at any particular time, e-Palette can be a pop-up store one day and a branded delivery van the next. Fully connected for smart city use, each user will be able to quickly configure the vehicle’s software, drivetrain and other modular components to suit its intended use, additional power suiting operation as a minibus, while enhanced battery modules would benefit e-Palette when used as a walk-in information centre.

In part 2 of our annual CES roundup we’ll be taking a look at smart home, smart city and other technologies away from automotive applications, so stay tuned to our blog.


1. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/hyundai-nexo-hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered-suv-revealed-ces
2. http://nissannews.com/en-US/nissan/usa/channels/us-nissan-2018-ces/releases/nissan-brain-to-vehicle-technology-redefines-future-of-driving
3. http://media.daimler.com/marsMediaSite/en/instance/ko/World-premiere-at-CES-2018-MBUX-A-completely-new-user-experience-for-the-new-compact-cars.xhtml?oid=32705627
4. https://venturebeat.com/2018/01/13/5-ces-announcements-that-put-alexa-inside-cars/
5. https://www.pocket-lint.com/cars/buyers-guides/143346-best-cars-of-ces-2018-byton-toyota-kia-and-more
6. http://ir.gentex.com/news-releases/news-release-details/gentex-demonstrate-new-connected-car-biometrics-and-digital-rear
7. https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/8/16865528/kia-niro-ev-concept-range-speed-price-release-date-ces-2018
8. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nargessbanks/2018/01/10/toyota-e-palette-ces2018/#5edc56335368